Toshakhana

From SikhiWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Toshakhana or tosha khana, from Persian (tosha = food or provisions for journey or food articles in general + khana = house or storage room) means, in Punjabi, a treasury or secured storehouse for valuables. It is now generally used for the storehouse in the Darbar Sahib complex at Amritsar where costly items presented as offerings to the Harimandar Sahib, the Akal Takht and the shrine of Baba Atal which have accumulated over the centuries (mostly during Sikh rule over the Punjab) are kept under tight security. They are taken out for jalau (display) in the shrines on special occasions such as major festivals or anniversaries. They mostly comprise gold and silver ornaments such as chhabbas (domelike pendants), seharas (fringes of pearls and gems), chhatars (umbrellas), jha.la.rs (bejewelled frills) and other invaluable items, such as the door leaves of the Harimandar lined with gold sheets and valuable rumalas (scarves or wrappings for Guru Granth Sahib) are also stored in the Toshakhana. Two particularly rare items kept in the toshakhana are a richly bejewelled canopy, a present from the Nizam of Hyderabad to Maharaja Ranjit Singh who reportedly considering it too lavish a gift, sent it to the Harimandar Sahib and a chandan da chaur (flywhisk) made of sandalwood fibres which took years for Haji Muhammad Maskin, a Muslim craftsman to prepare. He had made two similar whisks, one of which he had presented at the Holy Ka'aba at Mecca, and was in search of a holy place in India deserving of his offering. Guided by Bhai Hira Singh Ragi, a wellknown exponent of gurmat kirtan (singing of sacred hymns of Guru Granth Sahib), he offered the second whisk at the Harimandar on 31 December 1925.

The Toshakhana is located on the first floor of the Darshani Deorhi, the gateway to the Harimandar, where it is guarded by employees of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. The contents were properly accounted for and the records kept by the secretary of the local managing committee until 1945, when the local committee was disbanded and the administration of the Darbar Sahib complex was put under the direct control of the Shiromani Committee.

It was the confiscation of the keys of this treasury by the British administration on 7 November 1921 that resulted in the events known as the keys agitation, the first direct confrontation between the government and the Akalis during the Gurdwara Reform movement. It ended in the restitution of the Golden Temple keys to the shrine authority on 5 January 1922. When under mounting pressure the British government finally caved, the Sikhs were asked to send representatives to pick up the keys. The Sikhs, however, refused to do this, so a government official came to the Darbar Sahib complex and surrendered the keys wrapped in a red piece of cloth to Baba Kharak Singh, then president of the Shiromani Committee.

The Toshakhana was damaged during "Operation Blue Star" on the night of 5/6 June 1984 when it was hit by cannon fire from the Indian army tanks that had been driven onto the marble pavement of the Parikarma. The treasury, however, remained intact except that the famous Hyderabad canopy was scorched by heat generated by the explosion/s.

References

1. Madanjit Kaur, The Golden Temple Past and Present. Amritsar, 1983 2. Pratap Singh, Giani, Gurduara Sudhar arthat Akali Lahir. Amritsar, 1975 3. Gian Singh, Giani, Twarikh Sri Amritsar [Reprint]. Amritsar, 1977 4. Singh Sabha Patrika (Bhai Sahib RagiHira Singh Vishesh Ank). Amritsar, 1979